Hire problem solvers not programmers

One of my first jobs in software was building an enterprisey SaaS product. I joined a team of about 10 people that was pretty evenly distributed between Junior and Senior developers.

One of the first bugs I got assigned was to update the copyright year in the footer of the application. Easy enough. I got familiar with the file structure (it was a pretty hefty app!) and found the footer ASP page that I needed to change.

I noticed that the copyright was using a static year like so:

  <strong>Copyright 2005</strong>

I found that strange since if I just simply replaced the year we would have to go through this again next year. Thus creating the dreadful, perpetual bug.

(Maybe there could be some value in having this recurring bug for new developers to get familiar with the code base or see if they really fix the issue, but this was definitely not the case here.)

I decided to check out the logs in Visual Source Safe to see what was going on (which was the worst!).

photo credit: ern via photopin cc

I found out that every year someone manually updated the copyright date! This was going on for over 5 years. This meant someone (QA, client, etc.) reported and filed the bug, someone else prioritized it, a developer “fixed” it, and it was tested and released. I use the term fixed lightly here. For a company that was limited on resources there sure was a lot of waste.

So I changed the footer to show the date based on the current year and this bug never came back.

This is a simple example but these are the decisions that are made by software(web) developers (programmers/engineers/etc.) on a daily basis.

Of course you don’t want to to over engineer something as we all know. But in some cases it’s more time consuming to not use the best approach available.

This is one of the differences between a problem solver and a programmer. Looking beyond the code to the see what effects flipping of a bit will have over time.

I would hire a Junior problem-solver over a Senior programmer any day of the week.